Matthew Gurewitsch on “True Colors”

Matthew Gureswitsch
Matthew Gureswitsch Chagai Zamir

Matthew Gurewitsch has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard and an MBA in business from Yale. After serving nearly 10 years as senior editor for Connoisseur, he began a freelance journalism career in 1991 and has written for The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has also written a novel, When Stars Blow Out: A Fable of Fame In Our Time, directed Wagner's Lohengrin for the Maryiinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, and narrated the documentary film Orange Revolution.

What drew you to this story? Can you describe its genesis?
I saw a newspaper article illustrated by an eye-poppingly gaudy ancient Greek tombstone. I then read about an exhibition of colored replicas of ancient statuary and made contact with the archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann, prime mover of the project. What drew me to the piece was the shock of seeing these statues in color—and realizing that this was how the Greeks and Romans expected to see them. Most of us are brought up to think they should be white.

What surprised you the most while covering this story?
Past the initial shock, which made me want to cover the story in the first place, I think the most surprising discovery was that Brinkmann—as committed as he is to correcting long-held misconceptions—still finds colored sculpture difficult to accept on a purely personal level. Probably a lot of viewers who believe in his research have to overcome a similar resistance—but he has been living with these issues longer and is more invested.

What was your favorite moment during your reporting?
There were two: the first meeting with Brinkmann, at the Glyptothek in Munich, to inspect coloration clues on ancient statues that are difficult—or impossible—to detect with the naked eye; and a viewing of the replicas with Brinkmann at Harvard.

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